7 years ago I started my own design/CRO agency and went on to sell 6-figure projects that transformed our clients’ businesses. All of it while building a SaaS on the side that got #1 on Product Hunt last week. Not a walk in the park. AMA!

by nevernorth. Posted on Sep 12, 2020    22    33


Hi r/Entrepreneur,

My name is Quinn Zeda and I used to do an AMA on this subreddit every year. Then, things got crazy for a while and I stopped.

I’m back here today to answer all your questions. As long as you leave a question or send a DM today, I will answer it.

Here’s what I can help you with:

  • Tearing down your website to improve UX and increase conversions, for free
  • Running an agency and dealing with its ups and downs
  • Building a creative team and communicating with designers/developers
  • Anything user experience design and conversion rate optimization
  • How to craft a brand that goes viral and that clearly communicates your vision
  • How to sell 6-figure websites and make clients throw 2-6x their stated budgets at you
  • Digital nomading and traveling with your dog (shout out to my Zulu)
  • Building a SaaS on the side and dealing with investors
  • Processes & systems (mostly creative ones, I’m shit at operations)

My story:

I started my business straight out of college 17 years ago. I was freelancing doing graphic design, production work, illustration, video editing, you name it - I did it. Eventually, I found my place with building brands and websites that get real business results.

For the last 7 years I have been running some version of what is Zeda Labs today. An agency focused on helping 7-figure online businesses scale by making websites that make people say, “Shut up and take my money!”

We dive into businesses to research, audit, and rip them to shreds so we can find gaps and opportunities. Then we create a strategy based on what we learn and where the business needs to go, and we execute on that vision.

We do literally everything:

  • research
  • branding
  • illustrations
  • design
  • development
  • business strategy
  • operations

We go deep into businesses that think they reached their full potential but want more, and we transform them. Like we did for 16 Personalities (helping them get from 5 to 300 million tests taken), Live Lingua, and Video Husky.

The way we managed our work at the agency was to sell one big 8-month project at a time, with smaller audits here and there. Our bandwidth was completely saturated and I couldn’t spend time on personal projects.

That is how I paid for my team. I used the rest of the time they had, to work on my little pet project, Conversion Crimes.

Usability testing was one of our secret weapons at Zeda Labs, but as an agency and with SME clients, existing solutions didn’t fit our needs. The idea for Conversion Crimes was born to kill the useless busywork with usability testing and be so easy anybody could do it.

Zeda Labs ran at a small profit or a minor loss each year. So don’t ask me about profitability. It was shit.

It was really stupid to have all my eggs in one basket, but my goal was not to be super profitable, it was to use the agency to build Conversion Crimes. A product that is mine. As long as we performed, our contracts were safe.

Since clients were paying the bills, their work always got priority and Conversion Crimes was pushed to the side. It was picked up and put down more times than I care to count.

This constant and inefficient juggling between projects was frustrating.

It left me wondering what we could have done with more time, if only we could have focused on Conversion Crimes.

There were so many false starts and stumbles (i.e. our developer disappearing 2 weeks before our beta launch in 2018 - not fun) But no matter what, I always pushed forward. Brick by Brick.

When quarantine happened, my life did not change much besides the fear and emotional panic at the beginning and not being able to go places. I’ll have travelled around the world, working online, and living out of my suitcase for 10 years this December. I’m used to working in my apartment alone - it was not a big shift.

However, I felt a sort of energy around all of it that made me rethink my priorities. Kind of like there are no rules anymore. And no better time than now.

Deep down going all-in on Conversion Crimes was my strongest desire and I knew it was the desire of my team too - they were also frustrated.

So no matter what it took, I decided to jump and I began winding down the agency without really having a plan, just a vision.

And a blind faith that I could make it all work out.

During this time I was also introduced to a person who challenged me to really think bigger and taught me that there are opportunities available to me, if I simply look.

Huh.

I realized that what got me here wouldn’t get me there.

So the team and I crunched our 3 month timeline into 2.5 weeks to get to Minimal Marketable Product (MMP). I can’t even believe we did it. It was a fuck-ton of work, 18-hour days, and non-stop of being, ‘on.’

We wrote, designed, and built a new website plus launched a huge feature update to get us prepared for a launch on Product Hunt - on top of fundraising which is a full-time job in itself.

With a remote team in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. I barely slept. I had to be there when they woke up to give instructions, slept while some worked, and ended their day with them in my morning. I worked from 7AM to 3AM with maybe an hour break most days.

Totally not healthy. Or sustainable.

But we did it because when opportunities come your way, you seize them. We needed to launch in order to have a chance - so we did what it took no matter the cost.

We launched on Product Hunt last week to get #1 for the day. I was pretty stoked on that.

Once I got a taste of working on Conversion Crimes full-time, there was no going back. I decided to just fuck it and shut down the agency by publicly announcing it to my lead flow.

That was really dumb.

My advisor tried to convince me not to do it for weeks because it’s a safety net and a strategic asset for fundraising. 😬

I had to. It’s who I am. And that may be the very action that makes dreams come true. I’ll find out soon enough.

It was time to put my energy into my thing. And when I really thought about it, the worst case scenario really wasn’t that bad. I had tested the product at every stage, I knew I could make money with it and we already had customers.

When you let the universe know what you don’t want I believe it conspires to give you what you do want.

In my experience, it’s always arrived, not always in the way I expected, but better.

So it feels good to be finally working on something I really believe in and have complete control over for myself and the team rather than it being owned by a client.

And I think that’s something to celebrate. Yeah?

From agency to product.

Ask me Anything. I’m here to help and give massive value!

As always, I’ll prioritize public questions, but I’ll also answer DMs if you prefer privacy.

If your question is posted by the end of today, I’ll answer it. We also need sleep, so just give me time to answer. As you can see by my previous AMA’s I always answer.


Comments

b00m666 1

Hi there! Thank you for giving so much value to us!

I would love for you to tear down my website so i can improve upon it!

It's: united-doggos.com

It's a new concept that is pretty unknown to the majority of the people (so it's almost always an introduction on ads level) and there has been some great response so far! It however has struggled every now and then in terms of profitability because i am inexperienced with setting up a good established brand. Looking to scale it to the moon soon!

​

Thank you again!

  nevernorth 1

haha that's so cute!

I didn't really get what it was about on the header though. The video is cute, but it wasn't until I scrolled down that I really got what your product is about. Which is basically lego dogs. I think it would be more powerful for you to have a more clear value prop and an image of the product (or to put the video as an actual video and not a video background)


Also, it says "build the pet you love" but I don't really see that I can accomplish that on your site. It's more generic. I was expecting to be able to replicate my actual dog and the papillion doesn't look like my dog, she has different colors. When I clicked at the bottom of the homepage on "build your own dog" I was thinking oh cool they have custom options, but then was just directed to the normal category page for dogs. That was not what I was expecting and I was very disappointed.


I think the messaging is a bit misleading throughout the site on that. It's not building your actual dog, it's building a typical version of a dog breed. And given the pricing is like $80-100 I don't see myself paying for that. If I was paying for a replica of my dog that I could build, I could see paying a premium price, but otherwise, no.


I do see free worldwide shipping under the header (I actually missed this until I looked at the page a few times) and it's kind of hidden on the product page. This is a good point for conversions that you have free worldwide shipping, so I would make that more obvious throughout the site and within your product pages.


HOpe that helps!

b00m666 1

Hi there!

Thank you so much for your honest and valuable criticism:)

We are working very hard on making a custom service to get people an exact replica of the pet they want, so i am sure that'll be awesome!

I can definitely see that the messaging needs some work after reading your own thought process from seeing that page, getting on that asap! (and i will work on getting a nice banner in place instead of the video and maybe do a how to build video below it as well)

Pricing is sadly a situational problem thanks to the whole COVID-19 problem (basically, i am paying an easy 16 euros for shipping per small product, which is an awful lot) But that'll be fixing itself once everything turns back to normal.

​

Funny thing about the worldwide shipping, i figured that out after reading other responses of yours to people \^\^ Already on it.

Thanks again for taking your time to help me and others!

Hermes_TM 1

u/nevernorth Hi OP, this might be too late for you to consider answering, but last night when I saw your post I was too tired and sleepy to write... so here goes my shot.
I'm exactly one major step behind you. I too plan as an endgame to build a Saas product but right now, I'm in the process of transitioning from freelance to agency.

I'm just about to launch the website, some free content on youtube and some paid ads and so on.

I've spent months making sure I consider every aspect but now my reserves are running out and I have to just force a launch and get some clients.

Any advice on finding the first clients as the small fish in the big pond transition from decent fish in small pond, that is going from freelance to studio agency?

Thanks in advance and best of luck with conversion crimes! Sounds really promising!

  nevernorth 2

My best advice is to give value that demonstrates your skills and expertise. I join communities, answer questions, hold tiny workshops & speaking gigs when they come up, I help people in all the avenues available to me. Generally, I don't ask for anything in return. People want to reciprocate and they do it on their own.

For example, when I launched on Product Hunt I went to communities and just gave massive value and then made a small mention that I launched on Product Hunt. Then, I just helped people. People that I helped then went and wrote comments on my PH page, voted for CC, etc. They've also tagged me in comments for other people that needed help in various communities, recommended us, etc.

Just like here, I'm here helping you. Maybe you might mention me to someone you know who eventually becomes a CC customer?

I've always gotten clients by being helpful, actually my first AMA in this subreddit led to me landing the client 16 Personalities which completely changed my career. I was a nobody - but he trusted me because I gave him so much value and he saw how I could help his business. And then I was able to use that case study to sell.

Put yourself out there, help people, and learn how to sell. That last part is important. You have to know how to understand what people need and how to sell them on your solution. Then, actually deliver on that.

Hermes_TM 1

Thank you so much. This was perfect and very reassuring, as it's in line with my nature - I usually loathe the tips and tricks that lead down some black hat or grey road. I've got burned and stood up some, by being giving and helpful, but I've also gotten life-changing opportunities through it before too.

So I'll just keep at it and even level it up. Haven't really done any workshops and alike so I'll definitely double down on being even more deliberate with helping others.

Thanks, I really needed this. Best wishes and I'll see what I'll be keeping you and CC in mind. Both for myself and my network.

Weeqat 1

Thanks for the interesting read. I like your process and I recognise myself, working 24/7 is life for me but it can be hard too finding the right balance

  nevernorth 2

I used to work a ton. But I realized that work/life balance is super important. I get more done in less time... unless I'm on a bender going for a tight goal like I did here. haha.

I've outsourced most things in my personal life to reduce decision making, I have a private chef, a personal trainer, laundry pickup/delivery, etc. These simple decisions removed thousands of micro decisions out of my life. "What am I going to eat today?" "What workout am I going to do?"


I just show up and it's done. That leaves me with my decision-making power to my actual work and business. Everything else is taken care of so afterwards I'm totally free to do whatever, guilt-free!

Weeqat 1

So nice that's my goal really
I've decided for it a thousand time, and then I just look at the price and say ok this I can do, and this too... And...
I end up cooking 30mn, doing the dishes for 30mn... Damn !

fridgeperson1722 1

Congrats Quinn! You’re so inspiring.

This is also the conclusion I’ve started to come to about agency. I started my career in one. Then went to design in house in the start up world and then ended up consulting. I’ve more recently been trying to join a team again over the past few years because it’s been a wild ride. I still have that entrepreneurial spirit inside of me and I’m working on some side projects as I job search for a full time UX role.

I love that you were passionate about something and saw the profitability of it. I often think of ideas of things to build but have been around the start up world to know that they won’t scale or aren’t as profitable as investors would like. For example, I think it would be cool to build an app that helps people with free holistic health and wellness education. It could be on a sliding scale for individuals, but mostly paid by insurance companies in the US if it generates stats that it helped people get healthier and lowered healthcare costs.

How did you go about dealing with investors? Where did you start? What was the hardest part of finding investors? Do you investors respect your vision or does the product get influenced by their opinions?

Also, I’m looking at two jobs right now. One is more in the service design realm and has change management and org psychology in it. It would eventually lead to me creating a UX education program for employees to be versed as taking UX 101 for example.

The other is with a former boss of mine from my agency days. He has slowly decreased his agency work to create a SaaS product as well.

I’m up in the air on what I want to do. On the one hand I think it’s interesting to help organizations adapt design thinking into their culture or to potentially get more education in executive leadership and the sub disciplines of it. On the other hand, that feels like it’s still choosing a career that sells my one on one time via in person workshops or coaching.

I would love to diversity and work less than 20 hours a week for fun because I do love what I do and want to continue learning.

Any insights or thoughts about my brain dump would be super awesome. Thanks!

  nevernorth 2

Hi! Thank you for your kind words.

​

>How did you go about dealing with investors? Where did you start? What was the hardest part of finding investors? Do you investors respect your vision or does the product get influenced by their opinions?

Interestingly enough, I got started by making a decision that I was going to go all-in on Conversion Crimes and by taking action on that, I had a conversation that led to an intro to an investor. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


I had always thought I would bootstrap and do that and didn't really want to take money, but after a lot of conversations with smart people I started to change my mind and see the potential.


I'm not one to want traditional VC and growth at all costs. I want a sustainable, profitable business and thus I started by seeking out VC and accelerators that matched my vision. There are a lot of cool accelerators like Tiny Seed and firms like Earnest Capital that do things differently and are inline with the vision I have.

Hardest part about fundraising? The time involvement. It's a full-time job. Due diligence is painful. Thinking about how to pitch and tell your story to grab attention takes time.


In my experience so far, investors have respected the vision. They want to accelerate your vision and get you somewhere faster, they don't want to run it. They may have ideas and suggestions, but at the end of the day, it's your company/vision.


>Also, I’m looking at two jobs right now. One is more in the service design realm and has change management and org psychology in it. It would eventually lead to me creating a UX education program for employees to be versed as taking UX 101 for example.
>
>The other is with a former boss of mine from my agency days. He has slowly decreased his agency work to create a SaaS product as well.

I would say to think about where you want to go. Where do you want to be in a few years? Which one of those options gets you closer to that? or is a stepping stone to that?

I built up Zeda Labs because I wanted to build a team that could help me build Conversion Crimes, but what I learned is how to scale on every level.

I got to see everything in these businesses, all the mistakes they made early on that as they grew became real problems. And I had to clean up all that mess. So I know how much those problems suck.

So when I think about building Conversion Crimes, I have first hand experience on how decisions I make now are going to be problems later on and I can learn from their mistakes and set myself up for a better future. Not to say it will be perfect, but I learned a lot doing that.


Hope that helps! :)

fridgeperson1722 1

Thanks! :D

Black_Magic100 1

Hello! I really enjoyed your write-up and think it is awesome what you have done.

Can you please review my site and let me know what I can improve: usedstainlesssteelbarrels.com

  nevernorth 1

Sure thing!

Your headline and subheading tell me what your site is about, but it doesn't tell me too much about why I should choose your barrels over others, other than it's cheaper.

I'd love to see the #1 thing your customers love about your product or buying from you in that heading/subheading.

And maybe separating out the use cases into a nice little graphic with icons or something that goes under the header area then then having the review section. .

I don't believe your social proof. I did eventually find your ebay store in the footer so I know you have a solid profile, but initially looking at this I don't trust it. It kinda looks like the base template of a website theme and you just typed whatever in there. I'd love to see those as links that I can click (which I actually tried to do) that leads me somewhere that I can validate those claims. You have it. Use it. You have a 99.9% positive rating on Ebay!

When I scroll down a bit, I see your little chart there. I don't get "Upfront Cost" the check and X don't really work for that title. I think you have a good selling point with maybe you're more expensive than regular steel, but over the lifetime you save more money. Maybe take those two out of the chart and find a way to articulate that in a better way.

Maybe compare the cost of your barrel vs steel, how long it lasts, and the cost savings over time. I think that is more powerful than displaced X and checkmark on those two line items.

I LOVE how you have the different use cases and describe exactly why that barrel for that use case is superior. Well done there. I would just make the font a bit easier to read. And by that I mean larger.

The site loads really slow for me.


HOpe that helps!

M-kopy 1

Do you guys work with any Freelance Direct Response Copywriters?

  nevernorth 1

At the agency we did, but that is closed down now.


At some point we plan to offer "specialized" testers at Conversion Crimes where we have copywriters, marketers, etc doing the same tests as our general tester pool, but giving more targeted feedback/suggestions based on their expertise.

charudhi_ 1

Hi there

We've spent over six years building apps primarily in the healthcare and fintech fields. What we've learnt over these years is that the key to developing a successful app, involves one simple process. Often times, one the things stopping founders and entrepreneurs to take the first step to developing apps is the time and cost investment involved. However, prototyping solves that problems. In fact, it is the only way to test your app idea in under $10,000, and within a couple of weeks. Therefore, we've put together all our experience into this eBook, "The Beginner's Guide to Rapid Prototyping". Let us know your thoughts and feedback on the eBook and the concept.

  nevernorth 1

Well, I definitely agree with this, "Why do Two Thirds of all apps fail? Lack of User Testing." - haha. Considering that Conversion Crimes is a user testing service.


I totally agree that the biggest barrier is entry is development and that too many entrepreneurs jump into that too soon without really thinking about what they are building and who it's for.


It's sooooooo much cheaper to fix a prototype than redo dev work, yet so many people skip this step! (myself included!!) 🤦‍♀️


I'll check out the book and update with my thoughts.

charudhi_ 1

Appreciate it!

  nevernorth 2

Did a quick run through of the book, I think you've done a really good job. It goes over the why you should prototype and what value will be gotten out of doing this process. Honestly, I don't have any feedback to give you. I will say that I liked your ebook landing page, but not so much for the actual agency. I felt the ebook, messages, and CTA's there were really strong and kinda missing on the agency site.

Rapid prototyping allows you to accurately estimate the effort required for building your app. Since rapid prototyping does not involve programming, it takes only a moderate investment to get the prototype to the ground.

Depending on the users' feedback, you can pivot and iterate quickly, until you nd the sweet spot your customers will love. Alternatively, if you were to code each iteration, your app development budget would multiply proportionally to the sum of all iterations.

Weeqat 2

Wow literally my first minute on this subreddit and it looks awesome!

I have a website that serves mainly as a redirection toward my YouTube channel
What do you think about it?

https://weeqat.com

  nevernorth 2

I can only comment on the design as I don't speak French. I tried to watch the video to understand what the site is about, but was even more confused even with English subtitles.


Okay, I get that it's basically a landing page for your YouTube Channel and now I've used google translate. But the menu is just links to videos and the main page is just a video without real context.

​

The title seems to be: Follow our adventures on YouTube

To experience our holidays, hover over the menu!


It just doesn't tell me anything or add any value. Why should I follow you? Why should I watch your videos? Why are you worth my time? What am I getting out of this? What do you stand for?


I don't really know anything about you. I'd like to see a bit more of a landing page on the home that tells me a bit more about you and an overview of why your channel is awesome and why I should pay attention. And maybe even an about us page that goes into why you started your channel and more detail/information about your story.


:) Hope that helps!

Weeqat 2

Thanks a ton! I understand what I have to do! I'll get on that 👍

  nevernorth 2

:) Thanks for the award! 🤩

Weeqat 1

A gift for a gift 👍😉
See you around

hyperboloid 2

Hi Quinn, congrats on getting to #1 on Product Hunt! Oh and I went to your first Coffee Club talk in Chiang Mai and loved it!


Please do your best/worst to tear down my website https://www.allriot.com
It's a very niche brand with a loyal customer base. At least 60% of our customers are male. 100% are super awesome. Most are college educated, and left-leaning and care about social justice and the environment. We've often been described as "political t-shirts that don't suck" :D

The website has just been redesigned so please disregard website speed etc as we're still working on ironing out a few issues.

Thanks and good luck with Conversion Crimes!

  nevernorth 1

Holy shit that was a few years ago! Amazing!

\(\^O\^)/ A teardown! I was hoping for more of these!

First thing is that "BE A VOICE, NOT AN ECHO." while I get that it speaks to what your customers may stand for, I love "Political t-shirts that don't suck" that you used in your message and even better that it's something your customers have used to describe you.

Use that! I get exactly what your site is with that phrase!

Under that, "Have you ever asked yourself what kind of statement your clothes make? Do they speak for you or over you? Corporations spend billions on marketing to pigeonhole self-expression into vague stereotypes. They brand us like cattle. 

The ultimate culture jam is changing your routine. Instead of being a voiceless billboard, how about changing into an idea; one that highlights a cause you truly believe in? That’s what ALLRIOT is all about."

This is a lot of text for a subheading. I would try to condense this. I'm doing this quickly as an example but something like,

Political t-shirts that don't suck

Corporations spend billions to brand us like cattle into vague stereotypes. Have you ever asked yourself what kind of statement your clothes make about you?

This is faster to read and provides a bit of curiosity. Like huh, yeah, what kind of statement could I make with my clothes, and then go check out the shirts.

I also like this from the footer: ALLRIOT is more than a progressive clothing brand – it’s a call to action. One day, the alternative will become the norm.

Also this: We aim to make cool shit that speaks your language at a price you can afford. There is no hype, just strong graphics and an equal emphasis on style and substance.

You have great copy around the site, it just needs to be condensed a bit and organized a bit better. With these long 2 paragraph texts on the photos, I'm more likely to just skip it than read it because it's too much for subheading text with a small white font on a black background.

I would try to bump up the font size and reduce the copy so it can be more bold and more of a statement!

Overall, I like the landing pages and the causes by category. Didn't get "thought criminals" until I clicked on it.

On the product page, there is a weird "or" thing above the add to cart. This is a mistake or bug or something.

Lastly, up in the top right corner you have, "Enjoy free shipping over $70, you cheeky rebel!"

This is really valuable information for a visitor. People love free shipping. And the fact that you have that is hidden where I almost missed it. This needs to be on your product pages, on the homepage, in the checkout (asking people to add more to the cart in order to get free shipping) in all the places! OH wait I do see it on the product page now, but it's ALL THE WAY AT THE BOTTOM!!!

😱 Did you just update the site because now after I wrote all that it the homepage changed! Overall, love the brand and vibe you're going for! The new update for the homepage definitely feels way better and more urban street ware vibes!

Also, I made a first impression test of your site you can watch the video here: https://www.loom.com/share/a31450780d79412785c5ed7a8cf8ce59

hyperboloid 1

Oh wow, thanks a bunch! Thanks for the video too! Lots of food for thought! I'll have a proper read through it again in the morning

  nevernorth 1

( \^_\^)o自自o(\^_\^ )

zipiddydooda 2

Conversion Crimes is an amazing concept. How will you do it at scale? How will you find enough testers if you have, say, 10,000 memberships?

  nevernorth 1

Thank you! Great question.

It's very scalable. We've set up a system so that we have testers go through an initial training period in order to be "approved" to our platform. This consists of a short course and 3 training tests.


Once they pass training, they can see available tests on their dashboard that meet their demographics, etc and they can claim them. So there are no testers on payroll, they are simply paid per test they claim and complete.


This same system can be used for CRO professionals. One thing that makes our platform different is that we offer "done with you" and "done for you" components. So the same way we train our testers and approve them, we can do the same for CRO professionals who can come to our platform claim a test and deliver on what's required. Although, right now we're doing this inhouse.


This allows us to scale without adding staff or salaries and keep these costs fixed based on units sold.


How can we find enough testers if we have 10k subscriptions? There is never a shortage of people who want to earn money online who can do a job on their own time and on their terms!

AnotherDrZoidberg 1

I saw conversion crimes the other day, very interesting concept. I haven't had a chance to really dig in, but do you see being able to automate any of that testing, or do you feel the human element is too core to what you're doing?

  nevernorth 1

It's already mostly automated with the human element.


The human element is really core to what we're doing. Where HotJar and analytics can tell you where a problem is they can't tell you why it's a problem. If you know why, you understand how you can fix it.